Livingstone Marufu Business Reporter
OIL producers have finally agreed to fortify their cooking oil within 90 days with over 50 percent of the producers having already complied with the Government mandatory fortification programme, Oil Expressers Association of Zimbabwe (OEAZ) president Busisa Moyo said yesterday.
Fortification entails adding minute levels of vitamins and minerals to foods during processing to increase micro-nutrient intake in a population. Some of the foods include cooking oil, sugar, wheat, flour and commercially milled maize meal, of which OEAZ and millers saw fortification as an extra cost.
Mr Moyo told The Herald Business that oil producers have agreed to the fortication programme after various consultations. “We now want to comply with the Government directive of mandatory fortification, but we would like to first put the equipment and systems in place to start the programme.
“But as we speak over 50 percent of the oil producers in the country have already complied with almost all oil producers expected to comply within the next 90 days.
“By November most of our members would have complied,” said Mr Moyo. Wheat, flour and maize meal will be fortified with Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, iron and zinc.
Cooking oil will be fortified with Vitamin A and D and sugar with Vitamin A. He said the main reasons for delaying the fortification process were nostro account imbalances and the extra cost of importing fortificants from other countries.
Oil producers argue that given the foreign currency shortages that the country is facing, Government should have given them more time to comply due to the foreign payment backlogs that they have had from December 2016.
Mr Moyo said most member companies within the association are building fortification plants to curb future expenses but this will have a negative impact on the cooking oil prices.
“We are afraid that cooking oil prices may go up due to the fact that most constructive instruments will be charged at street rates. “Forex to buy fortification plant apparatus will be acquired at an exorbitant rate on the black market,” said Mr Moyo.
Government’s Zimbabwe National Food Fortification Strategy (2014-2018) targets micro-nutrient deficiencies after the 2012 Zimbabwe Micro-Nutrient Survey revealed that nearly 1,5 million adults had anaemia deficits that affected work performance.
It also revealed that 19 percent of children between six and 59 months were Vitamin A deficient, and 72 and 31 percent had iron and anaemic deficiencies.
In June this year, Heath and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa, said millers and bakers who did not comply with mandatory food fortification — particularly for maize meal, sugar, cooking oil and wheat flour — would have their operating licences cancelled.
The Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe says it risks losing significant business if Apostolic sects proceed with a threat not to consume food that undergoes the State-mandated fortification.
GMAZ last week filed a High Court application to block Government from enforcing food fortification. They argue that mandatory food fortification would cost about $20 million to import the equipment and machinery for the process and about $7 million monthly for the importation of fortificants.
Customs duty still applies making the whole venture expensive ultimately to the consumer.